Tom’s haircut…A razor…A ritual…A rip off, so says Tom…Our own fault…

Tom, before his haircut.

On Tuesday late afternoon, we headed out with two missions in mind; one find a barbershop for Tom to get a haircut and two; find a restaurant where we could have a suitable meal.  Madame Zahra was still ill making dining in the riad not an option.

As we nudged our way through the crowds in the souks, we worked our way to a less busy area where we’d previously seen a string of tiny barbershops. 

Tom, getting his haircut in the barbershop in the souk.

Each shop had one guy sitting on a stool outside trying to lure takers inside while the actual barber hung onto the doorway, hoping to see a passersby show interest in purchasing their wares, neatly stacked on an outdoor table. Neither of them hesitate to bark at prospective customers. 

In their minds, everyone is a possible customer whether walking by quickly to avoid drawing attention to themselves, or those taking a leisurely stroll eyes flying from shop to shop, perpetually seeking the next great “deal.”  Then there is everyone in between, like us, looking for something but trying desperately to appear not to be.

The barbershop was clean and seem to have all the necessary equipment, although no products were for sale.

The first barbershop we encountered, appearing clean and well kept, we entered as Tom immediately asked the price. “100 dirhams!” shouted the barber as we entered the small space.

Tom looked at me for a reaction.  This was his deal.  I was staying out of it.  US $12.31 for a haircut?  Is that so bad?  Tom didn’t flinch, based on similar prices he’d paid in other countries.  Tom said, “Yes, but are photos OK?” as he pointed to my camera.  The barber agreed.

Tom accepted the offered cup of sweet tea, an apparent tradition in barbershops in Morocco.

I wondered why he didn’t bothered to negotiate.  But, knowing that if Tom was agreeable to a price, he wouldn’t try to negotiate.

Mohamed, the barber, spoke little English.  The friendly little guy outside the door spoke some English.  And the process began.

Clumps of Tom’s hair fell to the floor.

The first thing I noticed was that there was no sink in the shop, similar to what Tom experienced as a kid.  At that point, I also realized that none of the equipment would be sanitary.  I remembering the haircut Tom had in Belize a year ago while he sat outdoors on a plastic chair under a tree, raised up to the proper height with cement blocks. I kept my mouth shut. 

As soon as Tom was seated in the barber chair, Mohamed carefully draped him, ensuring no hair would fall into the neck of his shirt or on his clothing.  I sat mesmerized at his care in the draping.  With boys of my own and attending haircuts with Tom since our travels began, I’d yet to see such attention to detail.

I was mesmerized by the speed of the haircut and forgot to take a photo during the process. By the time the shave began, I was back at it.

After Tom was draped, Mohamed moved to the back of the narrow room, pulling out what appeared to be sanitary wipes as he wiped his own face, neck, arms and hands.  I wondered if he’d wiped off the equipment after the last customer but, again, I kept my mouth shut.  Mohamed motioned to me to be seated in the few chairs that lined the wall.

Tom sat patiently as Mohamed busied himself with his back to us.  We looked at each other wondering what was next.  Moments later, he turned around, handing us each a small glass of tea. In Morocco, tea is typically consumed in small glasses, not cups. 

Tom seemed to enjoy the shave.  In any case, it was worth it.

As he handed a glass of tea to me, I asked in French to the best of my limited ability, “Est ce que le thé sucré?” asking if there was sugar in the tea.  When he responded “Oui,” I responded, “Non merci,” gracefully declining his offer.  I can’t have sugar.  He seemed to understand by the apologetic look on my face. 

Tom, who never drinks hot tea graciously accepted the glass, taking a few sips, desperately trying to avoid a look of disdain on his face.  I chuckled to myself.

Mohamed was also quick while shaving handling the straight razor with expertise.

So far, we’d been in the barbershop for ten minutes without a single hair from Tom’s head falling to the floor.  However, respectful of customs everywhere we travel and the fact that we weren’t in a hurry, we patiently waited as he performed his customary rituals, making no comments to one another.

Finally, Mohamed pulled out an electric hair clipper, plugging it in, approaching Tom and began buzzing away.  I wondered if Tom was going to end up with a buzz cut but again kept my mouth shut. 

Haircut done. Almost done with the shave as Tom relaxed.

I’d never seen anyone so fast and so adept with an hair clipper.  I wondered if scissors would ever come into play.  A short time later, he grabbed a pair of scissors out of a wooden box and here, again, snipping with an expertise I’d never seen in any stylist or barber.

When done with the expertly done haircut which was not a buzz cut, much to my pleasure, he asked Tom if he wanted a shave to which Tom shook his head to a yes, never asking the price.  Honestly, not familiar with the cost of a shave, we figured it would either be reflected in our generous tip or a reasonable add on to the 100 dirhams, perhaps in the 50 dirham range.  How long could it take to shave him?

None the less, it was a good haircut. 

Tom later informed me he’d never had a shave in a barbershop, much to my surprise.  After the meticulous shave and clean up, Mohamed unwrapped Tom, asking him if he was happy in broken English.  Tom and I both nodded yes enthusiastically.

“What!” Tom said, thinking he meant 30 dirham additional for the shave which would have been a total bill of 130 dirhams, US $16.00, plus a tip for a total of US $20, a fair price based on local prices of products and services.

A short time later, we entered the restaurant for dinner.

Mohamed insisted on the 300 dirhams, showing us the amount on his cell phone at which point the little guy outside sitting on the stool came inside. We felt the total of US $36.89 was way too much.  The look on Tom’s face was more one of disappointment than anger.  What had been a pleasant experience turned into a manipulative rip off.  How could the 8 minute shave cost twice as much as the 25 minute haircut?

Then, Tom’s ire kicked in and he said, “200 dirhams! No more.”  Mohamed looked at me, then Tom and then accepted the 200 dirham as we walked out in somewhat of a huff.

The views from the restaurant rooftop.

It was our own fault.  One of us should have chimed in when he suggested the shave, negotiating it at the time thus avoiding the feeling of being taken advantage of.  Plain and simple.

All in all, the haircut and shave, well done for sure, came to US $24.63, not bad by US standards although high based on Moroccan pricing.  With all of our travels, you’d think we’d have figured this out by now! 

More views from restaurant rooftop.

Good grief!  It’s not a lot of money in the realm of things but it was the principal more than anything.  Tom was frustrated with himself less over the money and more over the fact that he failed to negotiate.

Later in the restaurant, his mood was one I’d seen before, one of self recrimination. “Let is go,” I assured him.  “It’s no big deal.  You got a great haircut and a shave, well deserved with how little you ever spend on yourself.”
“Besides,” I continued, “now we’re even.”

Palm trees are occasionally seen in the Medina.

“Even for what?” he asked.

“I paid too much for the belt I purchased a few weeks ago when you grumbled that I didn’t negotiate.”

“Yep.” he said, “We are even, aren’t we?”

We grabbed our menus contemplating what we’d order for dinner, smiles on our faces.

By the way, this morning we asked Adil how much is should have been for a haircut and shave.  He told us the total should have been 70 dirhams, US $8.62. Oh.

Photo from one year ago today, April 17, 2013:

We were waiting to clear immigrations in order to get off the ship in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands where I was meeting up with an old friend, a former Minnesotan, who’d lived there for many years.  Once cleared, Tom walked with me to our meeting point leaving me to visit with my friend.  A few hours later, he met up with me for the long walk back to the ship.  For details of this story, please click here.

2 thoughts on “Tom’s haircut…A razor…A ritual…A rip off, so says Tom…Our own fault…

  1. Unknown Reply

    Ugh, paying too much for something..and THEN realizing it… 🙁 Bummer, but you live and learn. Tom looks good though! I'm glad you guys are 'even' now! I'm happy to know that you are both enjoying what time you have left there, as apposed to some of the harder times you've experience since leaving SA, being sick and literally lost at times. Still enjoy every post you make and look forward to each and every one of them. Keep on keepin' on, my friends :))))) ~Ashley D

  2. Jessica Reply

    Thanks, dear friend, for writing! We love hearing from you! Yes, sometimes, life in harder in one place than another. But, we do our best to carry on with the hope we'll find ways to make each day enjoyable. Somehow we do.

    You are doing well in your new home, I see. You, too, have had quite an adjustment and we're proud of you and your family for doing it with such enthusiasm and grace. Time flies so quickly we must make every moment count. Although not necessarily enjoying the less pleasant times, we learn from them. So, they too have power in our lives.

    Hugs to you and the family,
    Jess & Tom

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